Stereotype Threat

You’re probably aware that there are large differences between men and women in performance on tests like the GRE math test or the SAT math test. This is particularly likely when you get to the cream of the crop, the top performers. There are also racial and ethnic differences in performance on the SAT and GRE. Stereotype threat argues that to some extent that’s due to the fact that these groups are labeled with negative group stereotypes. . . . The first wave of stereotype threat research focused on who was vulnerable to stereotype threat, and what we found was a very simple answer: Everybody. Anybody who has a negative stereotype attributed to their group is susceptible to stereotype threat. This can range from women taking a driving test to a math test; to minorities or low socioeconomic status individuals; first-generation college students taking . . . diagnostic measures of intelligence; or even white males taking a math test when they think their scores are going to be compared to Asian males; or white males completing tests of athletic ability when they think their performance is going to be compared to African-American males; or even males in general, thinking they’re going to be taking some kind of test that’s diagnostic of their emotional intelligence or emotional skills.

—Chad Forbes, University of Delaware, at the 2013 Neuroethics Symposium, “Bias in the Academy: From Neural Networks to Social Networks,” December 10, 2013, sponsored by the Emory Center for Ethics and the Laney Graduate School

Contemporary Challenges in Health Care

We face an aging population whose need has never been greater. Ten thousand people turn sixty-five every day, and that will happen for the next eighteen years. We’re being hit with a tidal wave of
the diseases of aging: Alzheimer’s, heart failure, diabetes, obesity-related diseases. When our patients come to us now, you feel it in your clinics. They don’t come with a single problem any more; they come with multiple complex chronic diseases, greatly increasing the complexity and challenges to overcome and deliver care for them. . . . Reports from the Institute of Medicine I think really have fundamentally changed the way we practice medicine in this country. The patient safety imperative, recognized by the Institute of Medicine, says a hundred thousand preventable deaths each year in this country are due to unreliable care. The quality imperative demonstrated the chasm between what we could deliver as care and what we do deliver as care. Care is unreliable, it’s fragmented, it’s not patient-centered. And only 50 percent of the time do we practice best evidence-based care in our health system. 

—Christian Larsen Dean of the Emory School of Medicine, from his talk, “Emory Medicine 2014,” November 13, 2013, sponsored by the School of Medicine

Interventions and Student Achievement

Social psychology has seen an explosion of really extraordinary research that shows how very brief, precise interventions can have large, lasting effects on student achievement. . . . In all of these cases, these interventions are really just small things. None of these last more than an hour; some of them last fifteen or twenty minutes. Yet they have been shown in numerous trials to cause benefits on outcomes like student GPA over months and over years, up to as long as three years into the future. Many people look at this literature—often people in education who aren’t schooled in psychology—and they say, “Wow, they’re magic!” Then they take one of two turns: sometimes they say, “They’re magic tricks, they’re not really real, they’re not really serious, they’re not really genuine efforts to address the endemic problems that exist within our society and our education system. They’re not serious efforts at addressing the causes of inequality or poor achievement, they’re not worthy of serious consideration.” Other people say, “Ah, they’re magic bullets, they’re just what I’ve been waiting for, they’re my savior, they’re the savior of the American education system, so let’s do this everywhere immediately!” . . . These are not magic tricks and they’re not magic bullets, and they do have a role in our efforts to improve education in America.

—Gregory Walton, Stanford University, at the 2013 Neuroethics Symposium, “Bias in the Academy: From Neural Networks to Social Networks,” December 10, 2013, sponsored by the Emory Center for Ethics and the Laney Graduate School